Seriously why? I hate it and I hate memorizing it or check my phone app for the depth of field of the current aperture. I find it so useful in old lenses. The DOF preview doesn't help that much because the viewfinder will be dim when you have small aperture.

Second question would be is there a way to maybe raise a suggestion to the manufacture to bring it back?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed! It would be nice to have at least the hyperfocal distance displayed. Of course calculating this as the focal-length and aperture of a zoom lens change would require some computing, or a lookup table in the firmware. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DrMoishePippik It would also require knowing the size of the monitor (or at least the pixel pitch) that the image is going to be pixel peeped on at 100%! \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 8:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ after almost a year of the question, looks like this maybe coming back. The new line Zeiss Batis has OLED DOF scale. Also related Sony is adding an aperture ring on their lenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – K''
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 14:32

4 Answers 4


Short answer: The digital photography revolution has pretty much eliminated any idea of a standard display size and viewing distance. Depth of Field calculations are always based on several variables including the display size and viewing distance.

First, a word about what depth-of-field is and is not:

In a way, depth-of-field is an illusion. There is only one plane of focus. Everything in front of or behind the point of focus is out of focus to one degree or another. What we call DoF is the area where things look, to our eyes, like they are in focus. This is based on the ability of the human eye to resolve certain minute differences at a particular distance. If the slightly out-of-focus blur is smaller than our eye's capability to resolve the detail then it appears to be in focus. When you magnify a portion of an image by making it larger or moving closer to it you allow your eye to see details that before were too close together to be seen by your eyes as separate pieces of the image.

Since things are gradually blurrier the further they are from the point of focus, as you gradually magnify the image the perceived depth of field gets narrower as the near and far points where your eyes can resolve fine details moves closer to the focus plane.

The DoF scales on most lenses assume output to be from a 36mm x 24mm film/sensor onto an 8x10 print viewed at about 10-12 inches by a person with 20/20 vision. If you display larger it decreases the DoF of the exact same picture file. Different sensor sizes (and thus different magnification ratios to wind up with the same viewing size) also change the circle of confusion. With modern pixel peeping being what it is, assuming the old standard CoC upon which the lens scales are based is highly optimistic. Viewing a 20MP image at 100% on my 23" HD (1920x1080) monitor is the equivalent of printing at about 60 inches by 40 inches!

Since depth-of-field is dependent upon viewing size and distance as well as the visual acuity of the viewer it is hard for a camera to indicate depth-of-field if it doesn't know what the display size of the photo will be. The same goes for lenses that may be used with different cameras that have different sensor sizes. The DoF scale for the same lens will be different for an APS-C camera than it would be for a Full Frame camera. Assuming the standard circle of confusion used for an image produced with a 36x24mm sensor, displayed at 8x10, and viewed at 10 inches by a person with 20/20 vision will accurately predict perceived DoF for most images is too broad in today's market. Because of this it has never been a priority to the users and designers who advise major manufacturers on what features are desired in upcoming models. Most of the photographers in those groups are advanced enough to have a feel for the distances/focal length/apertures they use the most and probably don't see a need for it. They also understand how to use distance scales on lenses that are marked well enough to be usable. Unfortunately, lenses with usable distance and DoF markings seem to be getting more and more uncommon. This seems to indicate the market in general doesn't demand such a feature.

Although it is not in-camera, these tools from DepthOfField master.com are simple, easy to use, and the price is right (free). Note that all results from DoF Master assume an 8x10 size image viewed at a distance of 10 inches by a person with 20/20 vision. If you want to account for differing display sizes and distances, you can use the Flexible Depth of Field Calculator from Cambridge in Colour and click show advanced to enter those variables.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Assuming ... is too broad in today's market" -- did you mean "too narrow" instead; i.e. covering a smaller set of assumptions than are reasonable? \$\endgroup\$
    – user
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess it depends on your semantics. Assuming the circle of confusion needed for an 8x10 will cover most images is a much broader assumption than the present reality. On the other hand, assuming 8x10 is the size at which most images are viewed is a narrow one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 11:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is interesting is that Fuji X cameras show can show depth of field on an electronic scale in the camera display. This is at a more stringent pixel resolution level rather than the more usual larger circle of confusion standard that they also put on the outside of their prime lenses. I certainly find the DOF display useful - and it makes it easy to find the hyperfocal distance for landscapes etc. Which definition of DOF is the most useful depends on the practical use. Clearly other manufacturers of mirrorless cameras could also display DOF in the viewfinder/back screen as an aid. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ As you have noted, the numbers your camera gives you are significantly different than what traditional DOF charts give for the same conditions, which are different from the numbers on your lenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 14:13

Not including a DOF scale can make the lens barrel smaller and allows the use of different focusing mechanisms such as linear motors instead of the traditional helicoid (which is where the DOF scale used to be printed).

It is less important to have the scale as you can get instant feedback on what is and isn't in focus with a digital camera, and differences in megapixel counts and output sizes make the scale inaccurate anyway.

A new series of lenses from Zeiss have been announced which include an OLED display, allowing the DOF scale to be shown to the user digitally. If successful other manufacturers may adopt this approach.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Matt for the answer, however I don't agree on the first point that the lens barrel would be smaller, I've couple of old lenses and they are small and short and not heavy compared to modern lenses. I don't also agree on the instant feedback with digital camera, the dof formula works and when shooting you know what will be in focus, checking the LCD is a waste of time since you have to zoom in and scan the image to check the focus, also I mostly turn off the LCD to save battery. \$\endgroup\$
    – K''
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand what do you mean by " differences in megapixel counts and output sizes make the scale inaccurate anyway". Good news from Zeiss with the digital scale, that should be interesting. Is there a link for the announcement? \$\endgroup\$
    – K''
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ They will put it on the Otus series and charge an extra grand for it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @akram Check out Zeiss' new Batis lenses for Sony E-mount \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @akram The problem is DOF scales on lenses just aren't very accurate, they are based on the assumption of a very small output size (this is where the dependance on megapixels comes in, with a higher resolution sensor you are more likely no notice if something is out of focus), they also require you to estimate the distance to objects in the scene for them to make any sense. They were better than nothing in the days of film, but now it's easy to check if something is actually in focus using the LCD. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 12:47

I think there are two very basic reasons why DoF scales are no longer put on lenses: zoom and autofocus.

Zoom lenses would have to have dynamic DoF scales that would change for whatever focal length is set on the lens. While maybe this could be done with, say, eink or lcd displays, it's something that's never really been put on lenses before.

But the more problematic issue is what autofocus in lenses has done to the "throw" of the manual focus ring. Old manual focus lenses have huge throws. It's why video shooters prize them. You can scale focus one of these lenses very accurately. Now go grab your favorite autofocusing prime, and test how far around the manual focus ring goes.

If your lens is focus-by-wire, consider there may be no accuracy at all, as the ring is no longer mechanically coupled to the focusing mechanism. And while maybe these rings could be geared to give a longer throw, overall, just looking at the focus scales on most modern lenses should demonstrate pretty clearly that a) there's no room for a DoF scale, and b) even if there were, you couldn't actually set the lens's focus with any accuracy. The difference of a millimeter or two on the ring could lead to a focusing difference of multiple feet. The accuracy simply can't be guaranteed.

Look at a modern lens that does have a the DoF scale on it (EF 35mm f/2L IS USM) if you don't believe me:

enter image description here

You really think you could accurately focus scale this lens to 8m? Or be able to accurately set the hyperfocal point for f/8 or f/16?

And, of course, this leaves out the whole issue of what acceptable sharpness is or the ever-changing circle of confusion brought about by ever changing pixel pitches and climbing pixel counts. What was a given as the hyperfocal point of a lens in film days no longer holds true for digital for many folks.

It is more likely that camera makers would rather implement setting the lens to hyperfocal a different way. OTOH, it's not like Canon's A-DEP mode ever actually worked.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not zooms per se, it's one-touch zooms. If you click on this lens review and look at the image, you'll see this 80-200/4.5 has a depth-of-field scale. It's a one-touch lens, and this design permits the addition of a scale pretty easily. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 15:33

The depth-of-field data engraved on the lens barrel is mostly a thing of the past. I find it was most helpful! In those good old days, most carried a gadget bag filled with prime lenses and various other paraphernalia. We needed most of this stuff to earn our keep. The engraved DOP on the lens barrel is easy if the has a fixed focal length (prime lens). Today most have replaced the prime with a zoom. The modern zoom has evolved, now most cover an extreme range. Engraved DP graphics would need to be rather complex but not impossible. I think, as the camera evolves, software within will provide this data in very clever ways. I hope I will be around and able to uses these wonders.


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